Hursley’s Japanese Garden

If you’re working in Hursley, sat a couple of centimeters in front of your screen, coding away all day, where do you go for a break? Well, Hursley has a Japanese garden, with a fish pond, fountain, trees and bits of modern art. It’s a cool place to get away from the technology and a bit of peace and quiet.

hursley\'s japanese garden

Here’s a quick video clip of the garden.

– Darren Shaw (Emerging Technology Services, IBM Hursley)

Good move by VMware

VMware have released the VMware player a cut down play only Virtual Machine that will run images created using their VMware Workstation, ESX and GSX products.

This is a clever move by VMware, the VMware player will be especially useful in the Enterprise market where pre-installed demo images of serious heavy weight middleware and other applications are an easy way of providing try before you buy demos. The availability of a free player will help encourage software firms to use VMwares fully featured products to create such demo images.

The player could also help in the uptake of linux as well, there are plenty of pre-installed Linux ISO images out there such as Knoppix to use in VMware. This provides a free means for users to try out Linux while still running their Windows setup.

‘Gmail’ becomes ‘Google Mail’ for UK users

Google recently announced that they are changing the service’s name here in the UK due to a trademark dispute. From today, all new invites sent to people in the UK will be for (rather than addresses. Nothing changes (so far) for existing users.

Gmail logo
The Gmail logo.

Google Mail
The new Google Mail logo.

Why is this happening? The dispute with has been rumbling away for a while, and this seems to be the result. Google are still contesting their right to use the Gmail name in the UK, only now it’s being done in court.

What Working Group?

The web evolves quickly; not so long ago AJAX was the hot new thing and now it is increasingly main-stream. Predicting the next big thing is very hard but I think one new development in particular is not on people’s radar in the way that I would expect. The WHAT-WG (Web HyperText Application Technology Working Group) is coming up with a set of specifications that should allow Web Apps to be richer and faster to write. Importantly they are ensuring that new features degrade gracefully in older browsers (primarily IE6) so authors don’t have to wait until the internet population as a whole have upgraded from legacy browsers before using cool new technologies.

The group is backed by Mozilla and Opera so we shouldn’t have to wait too long for browsers that take advantage of these new features (Ian Hickson, the spokesperson for the group, has worked on Mozilla/Firefox and Opera and has just been hired by Google). These new specs – if done right – will make all our lives easier so I encourage any reader who is experienced in writing web applications to check out the draft specifications and to suggest any good ideas that might spring to mind. This working group may define the web of tomorrow – the more useful input that it gets today, the better!

Riding the Fifth Wave

We have all been feeling it, a change in the landscape. The term web 2.0 has been used a lot, but the most appropriate one that sums it up for me if the “fifth wave”.

We have had mainframes, minicomputers, pcs, and client-server/Internet. Nominally these could be called waves 1 to 4. The fifth wave is all the enabling technologies that have become pervasive. Broadband, always on connectivity, open standards, easy to use tools, scripting, J2EE etc. When all these tools are put in the hands of of people with ideas and allows them to implement those ideas we have the fifth wave.

Fair enough not everyone can feel the wave yet. It may be more of a settling of the levels. However, it is clear that there are platforms and avenues for the new ideas. People remember the era, so we have the balance of ‘yes thats very good but will it work’. The important thing is that there are enough of us around who understand what the wave is and can help generate those innovative solutions to problems. I think its fair to say there are here in Hursley.

Ian Hughes – ( Consulting IT Specialist Emerging Technology Services, IBM Hursley)

So you dont know the way to France either

As part of my day job I work in a team looking at Business Innovation and Optimization. The short version of this is that if you use Websphere Modeller to create your business processes, Websphere Monitor to put instrumentation into those processes and then deploy it all on Websphere Process Server, you get in the position where you can use business dashboards to see what is going on in the business. IT and Business management become holistic and role based views of the active system let people have the control they need. Once you have all this instrumentation, you can then analyze what is happening, and fix it. We have the concept of On Demand, and this really is.

As part of this work I was looking at how to make better use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and how to place business data and information onto those in real time. One of the leaders in GIS is They have recently created a set of public web services to allow access to some fo the power of GIS. I have spent a few days putting thigs together, JSPs, WSDL generation to code in order to prove that we can hook the results of Websphere Monitor up with GIS.

The initial examples I looked at were just around getting existing maps, quakes, satellite images etc. However I soon came across the getThematicMapImage. This allows me to make a request of a web service having provided some data to associate with each geographic unit. ESRI then generate, on the fly, a colour coded map. It worked really well, and proved that my code was able to be in control of the numeric data whilst the web service was in control of the complicated geogrphic information. In the example I used US States as that was handy and easy, the rest of my team are over in the US as well.

arcwebonline has some live running samples and the sort of thing that can be done with the web service.

There are lots of other suppliers and it just so happens I went down this route as one avenue to investigate. Web services, whilst a little tricky with versions of generators, certainly helped me prove what I needed to do.

Ian Hughes (Consulting IT Specialist Emerging Technologies, IBM Hursley)

IBM Blog Social Network Visualisation

Over the past few years I’ve done a lot of work on social networks, in particular in their visualisation. Some of it has been on customer projects, but a lot has been on the side, during lunch breaks and weekends – I just thought it was kind of cool. The sort of thing I’ve done is look at email and IM traffic (with a user’s consent) and generate networks from there, showing who has strong connections with each other. There isn’t anything especially new here, but the diagrams do look neat and it’s generated a lot of interest within IBM.

The problem that always comes up is privacy. It isn’t actually the technology that’s difficult, it’s how you can do some of these things and maintain people’s privacy. People are, understandably, not always too happy about participating in this sort of thing if their email/IM traffic gets analysed. So, instead I looked at IBM’s internal blogs (which are much more public to begin with) and drew the same networks from there, based on who is commenting or referencing each other. I managed to produce the visualisations using a mixture of IBM products (DB2, Intelligent Miner Modelling and Intelligent Miner Visualization) and some custom hacked code… by me!

ibm social network

I’m not sure what the future for social network technology is. I’m currently trying to come up with a better way of rendering this information. These big network diagrams aren’t always that useful for the average user.

– Darren Shaw (Emerging Technology Services, IBM Hursley)

Advertising, does it work

The Million Dollar Homepage marked a return to quirky style ideas. However, this one has struck most of us as a ‘why did I not think of that’ type of idea. The guy running it is selling nothing more than pixels on his homepage. He has 1 million, and they are a dollar each. Well, we could not resist it and you will find raising the eight bar and this logo eightbarmillion (not pretty but we only had 10×10) on the million dollar homepage. Look down from the first i in million on the logo at the top, about 6 rows down, and there we are. Does this page work? Well I could not resist clicking on the “Even monkeys fall from trees” link and I made a purchase, but maybe it shows I am gullable. A pre-req for being an early adopter?

Ian Hughes (Consulting IT Specialist Emerging Technologies, IBM Hursley)

Hursley Pubs

The Hursley site tends to have a few oddities, which differentiate it from other IBM locations. One of them is that we have a pub on the site (IBM sites are generally alcohol free). The Hursley Clubhouse also acts as the focal point for all the clubs and societies running in Hursley. It’s kind of like the corporate equivalent of a Student’s Union. They run a whole set of activities: football, sailing, flying, gaming, as well as some more esoteric ones, such as the model railway club. Visitors to the Clubhouse are often surprised to see a full model railway in operation. A lot of people, like me, use the Clubhouse more for its food and drink service. You’ll often see a few Hursley big wigs supping a pint on a late Summer Friday afternoon.

We’re also lucky that Hursley village, which is only a five minute walk from the IBM site, has two pubs of it’s own. The Kings Head and the one which I tend to go to more often, The Dolphin. The Dolphin is a very traditional, old English pub. It was built around 1540, reportedly from the remains of HMS Dolphin. We tend to go there when there’s a birthday, people join or leave and for any other special events. It’s nice to be able to walk there from our office and it tends to be packed with IBMers most lunch times. It is quite odd going somewhere that has been around for over 450 years when we spend all day working on stuff that hasn’t been released yet and probably only has a life expectancy of 5-10 years. It’d be interesting to know if any code we write today has a chance of still being run in 2460. Somehow, I doubt it.

Ian at The Dolphin

Here’s Ian celebrating a birthday in The Dolphin this week.

– Darren Shaw (Emerging Technology Services, IBM Hursley)